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Foundations invest $215,000 in Pittsburgh-based professional artists

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Aug. 7, 2018 – A documentary about the August Wilson Center, a performance art installation inspired by the writings of Octavia Butler and a residency for a composer working with a local music ensemble are among the latest projects to receive funding from the Investing in Professional Artists program, which is a shared commitment of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

The foundations have awarded $215,000 in total to 15 local artists and organizations through the Investing in Professional Artists program this cycle. The purpose is to advance arts and culture in the Pittsburgh region, and the new grants support Pittsburgh-based artists from varied disciplines.

A panel of artists and scholars at both the national and regional levels, listed below, chose the 15 grantees from a pool of 119 local individuals and organizations. The grantees were selected based not only on the quality of their work, but also on the potential of their proposal to advance their careers. Recipients come from a wide range of artistic disciplines.

Since 2011, 115 artists and organizations have received a total of about $1.8 million from the Investing in Professional Artists Program. All the selected projects meet four key goals of the program: supporting creative development for professional artists; creating career advancement and recognition opportunities for artists; encouraging creative partnerships between artists and local organizations; and increasing the visibility of working artists. 

The national panelists were:

  • William Feagins, Jr., graphic designer and videographer/filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Danielle DeSwert Hahn, head of music programs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
  • Jaclyn Jacunski, Chicago-based artist and cultural worker and director of civic engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.
  • John Rich, manager of performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
  • Iquail Shaheed, director of DANCE IQUAIL! in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Sixto Wagan, inaugural director for the Center for Arts & Social Engagement at the University of Houston, Texas. 

The regional panelists were:

  • Cynthia Croot, associate professor/head of performance, Theatre Arts, University of Pittsburgh.
  • Deborah Hosking, multimedia artist.
  • Eric Moe, professor, Department of Music, University of Pittsburgh.
  • Erin Perry, executive director of Legacy Arts Project.
  • Ricardo Robinson, composer, sound recordist and audiovisual artist.
  • Tammy Ryan, playwright.  
  • Charlie White, head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University.

2018 Investing in Professional Artists Grant Recipients:

  • Osama Alomar ($10,000) to support the completion of his novel published in both Arabic and English, tentatively titled “The Womb,” a story of the Syrian war, which attempts to bridge east and west. 
  • To artist JSTN CLMN ($10,000) to develop a new body of ceramic work documenting historic sites and buildings of black Pittsburgh on the faces of ceramic plates, an exhibition and a related catalog with the goal of loaning the objects to community institutions for exhibition. 
  • Murphi Cook ($10,000) to develop “Diablerie,” a 90-minute fast-paced multimedia variety show that incorporates puppetry, animation, original pop music, and vaudevillian style acting and includes the creation of a dozen puppets, a set and original music. 
  • Sarika Goulatia ($10,000) to support the long-term, installation-based project “prosecuterix,” which generates dialog around sexual violence by providing a platform to encounter the testimony of survivors of abuse in order to cultivate awareness of and break the silence around sexual violence.
  • Billy Jackson ($8,500) to support the development of a documentary on the rebirth and mission of the August Wilson Center as an engaging and suspenseful re-telling of the elements of the Center’s initial failure and success and, in the process, a dynamic primer for other cultural institutions.
  • Geeta Kothari ($10,000) to support the development of the book “EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE: MAPPING MY MOTHER'S SEARCH FOR HOME.” The nonfiction story of displacement and the power of nostalgia covers the life and death of the author’s mother, who left India in 1950 at the age of 22 to work for the United Nations.
  • Jason Mendez ($10,000) to support the development of “Block Chronicles,” a video web series centered on the theme of “home,” which uses guest interviews and storytelling to explore the arts, social justice, education and Latinx identity and experiences. 
  • Andrew Nicholas ($10,000) to support post-production and a community-driven screening tour for a feature-length documentary film, “Blood Memory,” which reveals the untold history of America’s Indian Adoption Era when government-sponsored adoption policies removed 25 to 35 percent of Indian children from tribal communities nationwide.
  • Staycee Pearl ($10,000) to support the imagery research and development of sym., a movement-centered performance art installation involving dance, sound, video and sculpture inspired by Octavia Butler’s book “Fledgling,” and focused on symbiosis, a recurring theme of Butler’s work.
  • Paolo Piscitelli ($10,000) to support the development of “The Amulets Project,”?a series of tactile sculptures in bronze and alabaster small enough to fit in one’s hand. Amulets —which were originally charms used for rites of fertility, protection and magic — will be shared with others for a period of time during which the amulets will catalyze new stories about each holder and disrupt the isolation of making art.
  • Shannon Reed ($2,000) to support the development of her first novel, based on experiences her experiences as a teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y.  The book will focus on students and faculty of a small, theater-driven, diverse public high school after a student is killed there in a gang-related shooting.
  • Maree ReMalia ($10,000) to fund the development of a multidisciplinary, evening-length performance work, “A Letter Compiled From All Letters,” as well as supporting a rehearsal space, artist fees and travel, administrative support, documentation and select material.

Residencies at Art Organizations: 

  • 1Hood Media Academy ($35,000) to support a residency with performing artist Jacquea Mae for development of the extended-play album project “Life on Hold.” The residency would also honor the people of Wilkinsburg, help Jacquea Mae establish a brand for her work, and give her access to training and development opportunities around the world. 
  • Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts ($35,000) to support a residency with local interdisciplinary artist Alisha Wormsley in a cross-disciplinary creative inquiry utilizing an array of film, digital video, photography, media, and studio arts resources. The residency will connect Wormsley’s work with collective memory and the synchronicity of time with Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Art’s new focus on race and gender issues.
  • Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble ($34,600) to reimagine the live concert music experience by supporting a research and development residency with composer Steven Bryant. The residency will focus on Bryan’s work creating “omni-dimensional” approach to composition, which places the audience at the center with performers in positions around the audience.

More information about the Investing in Professional Artists program, including previous awardees and application guidelines and deadlines, is available at 

Deanna Garcia
The Pittsburgh Foundation

Carmen J. Lee
The Heinz Endowments